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Seattle Times Article 12/17/08
A stroll through Seattle’s coffee culture.
Seattle By Foot’s Coffee Crawls last about two hours and snake through downtown Seattle, from Seattle’s Best Coffee at Pike Place Market to Zeitgeist Coffee in Pioneer Square, with sips and tastes of various caffeinated beverages along the way.
By Karen Gaudette
My sweater sleeve smells like fresh-ground coffee. So does my wool hat. By the third stop of a Coffee Crawl led by Seattle By Foot, java not only has filled my brain and belly, it permeates my very being.
I’m amid a pack of ladies trooping merrily along in the rain (of course) behind Vicki Schuman, a former airline business analyst. The idea of an adventure that combines Seattle’s history and coffee culture percolated in her head for years before she launched a tour of downtown coffee spots last summer.
“Working in the airline industry we’d travel a lot and I just fell in love with walking tours,” she said. “I wanted to do a tour of something that was unique to Seattle.”
Schuman pours out local trivia, notes architectural highlights en route and produces a map of the world’s coffee-growing regions to better explain the origins of beverages sampled over two hours: A peppermint mocha with whip at Seattle’s Best Coffee; single origin roasts from Panama, Kenya and Colombia at Seattle Coffee Works; rich Ephemere hot chocolate at Dilettante Mocha Café; a demitasse of Clover machine-brewed Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, fragrant with the aroma of blueberries at Trabant Coffee & Chai.
We learn of the beginnings of Monorail Espresso — now a walk-up window at Fifth and Pike but once one of Seattle’s first coffee carts, back in the 1990s when carts with their rainbow of flavored syrups ruled the sidewalks. Store owners share how blends are made and demonstrate the lengths the truly passionate will go with temperature, filtration and other variables to brew what they deem a glorious cup of joe.
So far, Schuman’s patrons have hailed from nearly every state and many a nation. On a recent December morning, however, they hail from here: a group of women determined to see more of their city. Over the past few months they knocked out the Central Library, the Scuplture Park, the Lucy exhibit at Pacific Science Center and an Argosy Cruise.
“It’s all the cool stuff you never go to because you live here and you’re busy,” said Cece Fitton of Seattle. She and friend Rosemary Harer said the tour showed them new pockets of the city and a whole lot about coffee.
Perhaps the greatest challenge Schuman faced was selecting the “right” combination of coffee spots in a city that teems with independent roasters and espresso purveyors, as well as java junkies abuzz with their own opinions. Those she chose offer a tasty survey of the region’s caffeinated roots along a route that starts at Pike Place Market and snakes past local landmarks (and more than a handful of Starbucks) to end at Zeitgeist Coffee in Pioneer Square.